BE-ing a NED
It has been known for me to turn up at the office with a piece of straw in my hair, or shavings in my shoes. Pretty embarrassing when you work in a city-centre law firm like I do. But when I turned up to my first meeting as a new British Eventing Non-Executive Director (NED), I did think that at least here, they might understand.
Non-Executive Directors work behind the scenes at organisations. Unlike ‘normal’ (executive) directors, we do not run the organisation on a day to day basis. Rather, we provide strategic advice and support to those who do, and ensure its overall good governance. Some of us are selected by the members, others are ‘‘co-opted’ by the Board (of which we are a part). We are selected for our expertise in relevant areas; mine is the law. It is not a paid position and so is entirely voluntary, and most of us carry out our NED duties alongside full-time jobs.
As a Board, we meet 6 times a year, although there are many other functions and, of course, events that we attend too. Just as importantly, we are always on the other end of a phone or email should the operational staff needs us.
So what made me want to be a NED for BE? Well, eventing is my passion. My earliest memories are of being taken to numerous events by my parents, who were regular competitors in the late ‘70’s and early ‘80’s. This might have put some kids off, but I loved it, particularly when mum and dad competed at Burghley and Badminton. When I got older, it was my turn to drag them round, although I never got to the level that they did (Novice was my limit).
Due to work pressures, I gave up competing in my early twenties and, apart from a couple of stints of competing in my thirties, I have not competed seriously since. I still ride, however, and own a horse, a big grey called Harold, whom I hunt in my native county, Leicestershire. Harold has never evented in his life, but may well have to soon, as I have decided that I need to do a bit of competing as NED ‘research’.
I have continued to follow the sport, and my family’s annual pilgrimages to Burghley and Badminton are the highlights of our year. My mum also has an intermediate event horse, whom I follow, which is great, as I have all the fun but none of the expense!
For a long time I have wanted to contribute to our wonderful sport. I have always been interested how it is run, and so when I saw an advert for the position of NED of BE last year, I jumped at the chance to apply. Frankly, I did not hold much hope of getting the position, as NED positions in sport are notoriously hard to get. But I went for an interview, where I met CEO Jude Matthews, Chief Executive Officer Wendy McGowan, Chairman Fiona O’Hara and NED Chris Tattersall and I have to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it. A few days later Fiona phoned me and asked me to join the Board of BE as NED. I have to confess that as soon as I came off the phone, I was jumping up and down with excitement.
So that is how I found myself at my first meeting as a BE NED. At that point I thought I knew something about our sport and how it is run. I was very soon to find out that my knowledge was just the tip of the iceberg, and that I had an awful lot to learn.